When I saw this trend going around bookish social media the other day, I couldn’t help but launch myself on to this bandwagon. As someone who holds both an Honours and a Masters degree in various forms of English literature, I’ll take absolutely any opportunity to shout about how much I love books. I’ll try my hardest not to flood this short list with Tolkien books, but no promises. I haven’t written two dissertations on his various Middle-Earth texts for nothing. This was inspired by many other bookish people online, but I’ll give a special shoutout to Fantasy Owl somuchkat. Without further ado, here are my five books that made me who I am today!
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
I bought my first copy of The Lord of the Rings on my 16th birthday, using my birthday money. I don’t quite know why I was initially inspired to read such a massive book as a little 16-year-old, but I’m sure glad I did! I love everything about this book, right down to the way the sentences are put together. It taught me so much about the kind of stories I like to read and started me down the path which eventually led to studying what I love at university and earning a Fantasy MLitt with Merit. It’s brought me immense comfort during both good times and bad times; I owe a huge amount of my happiness to Tolkien for creating this work of art.
Going Solo, by Roald Dahl
Admittedly, Roald Dahl is somewhat of a problematic fave these days. However, he was one of the first authors I ever discovered as a child and his writing had a huge impact on my young imagination. His stories are unique and extremely entertaining, which is why the autobiographical Going Solo makes for compelling reading. The combination of Roald Dahl’s descriptive prose and the extraordinary things he experienced during World War II really captivated me and caused me to read and re-read this book over and over again.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling
I came to the Harry Potter series slightly later than most people, because I was born in 1997, the year the first book in the series was published. I was a teenager when I read the books for the first time, but I read them in the wrong order (and I still haven’t read the second one; it’s my least favourite film in the series). I liked the books well enough, but the fifth book really grabbed me in a way the other books didn’t quite manage to achieve. It’s a chunky old book, but I love the level of detail and I think it’s a masterpiece of editing as well as writing. Rowling creates such a tangible atmosphere of mounting tension and burning injustice every time Dolores Umbridge appears on the page. She really knows how to create a wonderfully evil villain.
A Poet’s Guide To Britain, by Owen Sheers
This might seem like an odd choice, but this book was extremely important to me during undergrad, when I had multiple classes on Romantic poetry and needed a book with all the popular poems in one place. However, outside uni I’ve often found myself flipping through it whenever the mood takes me. The poems are divided up by geographical locations of Britain, which are designed to reflect the collective experience of people living in those different locations. I really love reading the poems with specific landscapes in mind at the same time.
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemmingway
This is another undergrad pick, this time from a class I took which focussed on the literature and culture of the 1920s in the United States. Hemingway was part of the Lost Generation, a group of mostly American writers who were born/came of age during World War I and were subsequently traumatised to the extent that they became extremely disassociated with life and struggled to find meaning in their existence. The literature produced by these writers is devastatingly beautiful to read, and The Sun Also Rises is one of my personal favourite examples. It’s special because it was my first experience of Lost Generation literature and opened my eyes to the lasting effects of a war that is often forgotten in favour of its sequel nowadays.
And there we have it! I’m not sure how revealing this list is with regard to my personality, but these are the top five book which have influenced my life and my way of thinking about wider literature. Feel free to share your thoughts with me, or even share your own top five books which made you into the person you are today. Until next time!